It will be Canada against Russia in the opening game at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Swift Current.
Hockey Canada released the official tournament schedule and ticket packages for this international showcase of young hockey talent on April 16.
The tournament takes place from Nov. 2-9 and will be co-hosted by Medicine Hat and Swift Current. Liam Choo-Foo, the co-chair of the host organizing committee in Swift Current and Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault shared their excitement about the event during a media announcement at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex.
“That will be a sellout, so get your tickets quick,” Choo-Foo said about the tournament’s opening game at the iPlex, which will feature Team Canada Red against Russia.
He is also very excited about the teams from Finland and Sweden that will be part of the pool in Swift Current.
“We believe we got a powerhouse pool,” he said. “Canada-Russia speaks for itself. Finland recently won the World Juniors. They’re becoming one of the powerhouses as well, and Sweden is always in the mix. So we’re very excited. Even within the traditional European rivalry of Finland-Sweden. So we’re ecstatic to have the pool that we have.”
The other preliminary round at the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat will involve Team Canada Black, Team Canada White, the United States, and the Czech Republic. That pool’s opening game on Nov. 2 will be played between the two Canadian teams.
The quarter-final games in both cities will take place on Nov. 7, and each city will host a semi-final game on Nov. 8.
The bronze and gold medal games will both take place in Medicine Hat on Nov. 9, while the other two placement games will be in Swift Current on the same day.
Choo-Foo said the local organizing committee never had any expectation that the bronze or gold medal game would be played in Swift Current.
“Medicine Hat were the initiator of the bid,” he mentioned. “They needed a partner in order to be able to have the capacity to host the tournament. We always knew it would be there. Medicine Hat were instrumental in ensuring we had a semi-final game and I can’t give them enough credit for that. TSN would much preferred to have had both semi-finals in Medicine Hat. Much more easy logistically for them and Medicine Hat really supported Swift Current getting one of the semi-finals. So we appreciate that.”
Swift Current hosted the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 1998, but this will be the first time for Medicine Hat.
The teams will play pre-tournament games on Oct. 31. The game between Team Canada White and Russia will be played at the iPlex in Swift Current and the Medicine Hat game will be Team Canada Red against the United States. The venues for the other two games must still be announced, but one game will be played in another community in southwest Saskatchewan.
“It will be in one of our surrounding communities, and once we have that agreement in place, we’ll have an announcement in conjunction with that community around that,” Choo-Foo said.
Mayor Denis Perrault is looking forward to the return of this tournament to Swift Current through the partnership with Medicine Hat.
“This is an absolute opportunity for us here in the southwest to get a chance to see world-class hockey right here at Innovation Credit Union iPlex, something we’re very excited for,” he said. “It’s a great chance for us to partner with the community of Medicine Hat to be able to bring this here.”
He is anticipating a boost for Swift Current’s economy during the tournament due to the presence of teams and hockey fans.
“It’s a chance for us to fill our hotels and keep our restaurants hopping and give a chance for the retail sector to shine,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to really showcase our community and the economic benefit is just icing on the cake.”
Swift Current is hosting a number of large events this year, including the Western Canada Summer Games in August, but Perrault is confident about volunteer support for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“We are going to have a lot of events, but I’m confident that we’re going to see our community step up to volunteer, and step up to sponsor, and step up to come and pack the iPlex for what is going to be very exciting hockey,” he said.
According to Choo-Foo there will probably be a need for between 100 and 150 volunteers in Swift Current during the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“The biggest challenge for us is logistics around moving the teams between Medicine Hat and Swift Current and transport and those types of things,” he said. “As far as the actual game day and operations, Swift Current has hosted two world curling championships in this building. We’ve hosted many world events. We’re feeling pretty confident we can pull that part off once everybody is here.”
Early-bird ticket packages are now available to Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers season ticket holders as well as to local and surrounding minor hockey teams. The early bird pricing for the public will be available from May 15 to June 18 through the Hockey Canada website (HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets). The early bird package is $150 for an adult and $90 for youth. The regular pricing will be $170 for an adult and $110 for youth.
The full price for ticket packages will be effective on June 19 and single game tickets will then also be available. Exhibition game tickets will be $10 per ticket, round robin and placement games will be $15, and quarter and semi-finals will be $22.